Aiken County residents express concerns over vaccine rollout; lawmakers searching for options


AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Government officials never promised the vaccine roll-out would be an easy one but those on the state level say they are working to bring in more providers to help with the challenging process.

“My anger is for my parents’ safety and welfare,” Andrew McCaskill resident said.

Andrew McCaskill has elderly parents suffering from a number of ailments. For them, it just makes sense to get the vaccine but they’re running into issues just getting an appointment. “I called Aiken Regional and a nice lady answered the phone. She said, hey, we’re sorry, but our computer side has crashed,” he recalled. “You’ll just have to try back. Maybe it’ll be up tomorrow. So needless to say I was pretty hot,” he added.

Andrew McCaskill’s parents. Both are trying to sign up for vaccinations but are running into problems.

Many of you shared your problems with Shawn on social media. One viewer said the process to register was confusing. “I sent a mass email to my patients between the ages of 40-110, with the direct signup link to VAMS with instructions of the weird nuances like no joint email addresses, the confirmation code, the ethnicity question, and the availability issue. We even walked a few patients through the whole process including scheduling. Got them scheduled next week in Lexington,” she said.

Also, getting providers is an issue. Organizations like the National Guard are standing by to help but some say it seems as if the process could be held up by the local hospital.”I don’t know what the situation is there,” Senator Young said. “I’ve contacted the National Guard and they told me that they will come if Aiken Regional asks for their assistance,” Senator Tom Young said. “I’ve told Aiken Regional that today and I don’t know where that stands,” he added.

“We have the resources, we have a very active National Guard unit in Graniteville. They have the facilities where they could do drive-through vaccinations. The capacity’s there, nobody’s willing to use it. That to me is pretty frustrating,” McCaskill said.

Andrew McCaskill’s parents. Both are trying to sign up for vaccinations but are running into problems.

Multiple locations including Doctors Care agreed to take on inoculations. Newschannel 6 checked DHEC’s website and it shows five locations not accepting appointments. Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Aiken County Health Department, Doctors Care – North Aiken, Doctors Care – North Augusta, Family Pharmacy. Doctors Care – Aiken Mall is the only location listed accepting appointments.

“I’ve been in touch with some other local officials to try to help get a big location for AU Health to operate a clinic. I’m encouraged by that. I’ve put AU Health in touch with DHEC so they can work on getting the vaccine from South Carolina to administer the vaccine to South Carolinians,” Senator Young added.

Shawn did reach out to Aiken Regional to ask about bringing in the National Guard to help assist with vaccinations and scheduling of appointments. He’s still awaiting a response.

Meanwhile, DHEC and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation issued a joint order expanding the number of medical professionals who may administer COVID-19 vaccine.

“While South Carolina is currently in Phase 1a of its vaccine plan which is targeted at protecting front-line medical workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and those who are 70 older, this joint order proactively puts us in a position to have an increased number of people who can administer vaccine when the vaccine is more widely available to everyone,” DHEC Acting Director Marshall Taylor said in a news release.

The joint order expanding the qualified persons who are now authorized to administer pre-measured doses of COVID-19 vaccine includes:

  • personnel with current certifications by certain certifying boards
  • students of an accredited medical school with appropriate instruction and documented training
  • registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who have retired, become inactive, or whose licenses have lapsed within the last five years but were in good standing

“This Order goes a long way in helping hospitals and other providers prepare for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. LLR, along with the Board of Medical Examiners and the Board of Nursing and other health professional licensing boards, are committed to doing everything we can to help South Carolinians gain access to a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly and safely as possible. We continue to stand ready to assist DHEC in its endeavor to do so,” LLR Director Emily Farr said.

These newly qualified residents will need to enroll in the federal program all providers must successfully complete in order to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. There are currently 924 vaccine provider sites enrolled in the federal program for administering COVID-19 vaccine and 286 of those provider sites are currently activated and able to administer the vaccine. The number of activated sites will increase as the vaccine becomes more widely available, state health officials shared.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned from DHEC that its Care Line is back fully functional after being inundated with calls Wednesday morning.

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